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The Genre Candy Store: Too Many Choices?

Indie Publishing has upended all aspects of the fiction-producing and fiction-buying industry. The good news is the traditional publishing houses, once gate-keepers, now compete robustly with Indies. Anyone with a computer, a little tech savvy, a creative bent, and a persistent nature, can publish a novel.

The not so pleasant news: Anyone with a computer, a little tech savvy, a creative bent, and a persistent nature, can publish a novel.

The kerfuffle caused by inundation requires a sorting out process, presently at infant stage. As we’ve learned in our republic, freedom often comes with some cost and discomfort. Below, I raise a couple of questions we’ll need to answer before readers can easily uncover/discover the books they want to read.

Multiple Genres/Categories of Fiction:

Indies have expanded genres/categories of fiction. Will readers be able to find their favorite book niche, or will genre choices confuse them…put them off?

I call this the Candy Store problem. When I walk into a candy store the choices are overwhelming. Look at how many kinds of gummies fill the bins. Which ones will I like? Do I need to sample all forty choices before I pick a brand? Maybe I should buy a bag of the kind I’ve always liked and end the stress.

Now I’m the kind of person who has sampled many genres of fiction. I was a high school/college English teacher for twenty-three years. In my college studies I read widely; as a teacher I chose a spectrum of genres to present to my students, hoping to spark their interest in several types of fiction. From day one as a teacher, I was well aware of reader preferences. Whereas a Harry Potter tome would put me to sleep, some of my students were energized by Rawling’s tales. I honor and applaud reader differences.

Does the seller (Amazon/iTunes/B&N) have the systems in place to match reader with the genre they love?

Though people say word-of-mouth endorsements of novels is their favorite way to find a treasure, most avid readers use Amazon/iTunes/B&N search engines to find the books they like. The first problem: It’s up to authors to identify key words and pack their blurbs with key words. We’re told to ‘cover:’

Setting Character types Character roles Plot themes Story tone

Ah, the variables here! And we’re supposed to ‘change up’ our key words over time. From what to what, we wonder? The second problem: the reader is supposed to suggest key words to the seller and that can be a challenging task. The third problem: our seller is a computer, not a person. It’s a system based on patterns and numbers. What the seller’s algorithms do with the author and reader information may be flawed or influenced by ads, or determined by how much money the reader has spent on the seller’s products in the past. The playing field is far from even, especially since the seller is in the catbird seat.

Yes, freedom comes with some cost. The internet is swamped by books in an astounding variety of genres, confounding both the reader and book sellers like Amazon. How can the author, the reader and the seller work better together to match novels to readers?


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